Anatomy of a traffic disaster

by Z. Ibrahim

The Federal Highway, first envisioned in 1965 following separation of Singapore from Malaysia, became the main artery to serve the entire Klang Valley conurbation when Malaysia decided to make Port Klang its premier port then.

Opened in 1967, the Highway itself has undergone multiple metamorphoses to cater for the ever increasing population and industries on either side of the highway.

There was a period in the 80s’ when traffic jams to KL used to start at the Berkeley Gardens and a significant portion of Klang residents who worked in KL had to be on the road by 5am. The original 4-lane highway soon outlived its purpose despite the building of multiple interchanges in Petaling Jaya.

In 1992 Plus Expressway Berhad upgraded the entire highway to a 6-lane highway with toll plazas at Batu Tiga and Sungai Rasa. The highway handles such great volumes of traffic at any time of the day that jams can be quite difficult to predict as even minor mishaps have known to cause traffic to back-up on either side of the highway for miles.

To overcome these jams new expressways were built to not only relieve the burden on the Federal Highway but to ensure that cargo meant for the ports reached them on time.

The New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) stretching from Bukit Raja near Klang town to Jalan Duta in Kuala Lumpur was completed and opened to traffic in 1990. The NKVE was further complemented when the 17.5km Shapadu Highway or the North Klang Straits Bypass Highway (NNKSB) linking North Port to Bukit Raja was opened.

The Shah Alam Expressway (KESAS) connects West Port to Sri Petaling and construction began in 1995 and Phase 1 (Seafield-Sri Petaling) was completed in 1997 and Phase 2 (Seafield-Pandamaran) in 1998. Incredibly enough the NKVE and KESAS highways have no direct interchanges to the Federal Highway and despite the addition of the New Pantai Expressway, residents in Klang especially South Klang cannot avoid the Federal Highway to reach their homes after work and this has now become an unbelievable daily nightmare.

At 5pm, after you pass the UITM campus the dreadful jams begin at the Sungai Rasa Toll complex. The six-lane highway narrows down to the original 4-lane Federal Highway of yesteryears at Taman Berkeley. The traffic from the upgraded Jambatan Kota can back-up for five kilometers or more as traffic crawls at this point.

You would have thought common sense would prevail and either this stretch would have been upgraded or development on either side curtailed till the highway can cope with traffic … but this is Klang where as the Zakaria Mat Deros affair has shown
… ..anything goes.

The Berkeley section of the “highway” is now choked with not only incoming traffic from KL but also from hundreds of motorists and customers who attend functions and gatherings at the Hokkien Association Building and two Chinese seafood restaurants on either side of the highway which have been miraculously given licenses to operate.

In addition three completed condominium complexes, the Regency, Dynasty and Pelangi condominiums all exit at this section and worse still the “highway” now has to contend with the new but still not completely open giant Centro office complex. Shophouses and residential homes are being built at the old Chinese Maternity Hospital site over and above the already existing Government Clinic Complex – all still within this stretch. If you think this is incompetent town planning there is unfortunately more… .

New Threat – Prima Klang Avenue Office Complex

As you crawl past the upgraded Jambatan Kota and pass the MPK building on your right and the Land Office Complex on your left, the “highway” suddenly takes an acute turn. On your left at this turn what used to be Bukit Kota has now been slashed to make way for Klang’s newest office complex — Prima Klang Avenue.

This complex spanning more then 4 acres and “perched on the highest point of Klang” with “four-storeys of shops and six-storeys of offices” apparently offers “an exciting mix of shops comprising food and beverage stores, entertainment outlets, fitness centre, banks and an entire level dedicated to automotive showrooms. Wide frontage and spacious corridors create a pleasant environment for leisure and relaxation.

All these come together to make Prima Klang Avenue an innovative one-stop hub, complemented by a scenic landscape with relaxing and majestic water features” … or so says the developer in his brochures.

The complex of course offers ” easy access via Jalan Jambatan Kota and Jalan Kota, the center of the business areas, putting it nearby the Klang Municipal Council, Klang District Office, banking institutions and PUAS, as well as a walk away from the upcoming new government administration offices.”

No doubt this will add up “to a steady traffic flow of some 400,000 people a day in this vibrant business area.” !! Scheduled for completion in mid-2008, Prima Klang Avenue promises to be the pulse of the heart of Klang town. Does the MPK know the consequences and ramifications of 400,000 people ending up at this critical part of the highway hardly a kilometer after Jambatan Kota and 300 meters before the Port Klang/Banting interchange?

You don’t have to be an Einstein to realize that traffic will virtually stall for motorists who slow down to gain entry into this new complex. Worse still the sharp curve is currently already a frequent site for traffic mishaps, what more with traffic flowing in and out.

Even if the developer had been overly optimistic and only 100,000 people converge at the complex and assuming that only 5% come in cars, that is 5,000 cars for the allocated 800 car park-lots the developer has reserved. The spillover to the highway will paralyze the KL-Klang Highway.

This would mean traffic which already now backs up to the Sungai Rasa toll gate will now be backing up to UITM. This would also mean that Klangites will either have to spend an additional hour or more on the road trying to get home or leave office two hours later just so this complex can be built at this spot where traffic is narrowed down?

You might just as well close the bridge down! Approving and building such a huge complex at this juncture of the highway is akin to building a pesticide factory next to the Klang Gates Dam!

Whose idea is this and how is Klang going to face the resultant traffic nightmare? Or is there a proposed massive tolled ring road complex to take traffic away from this area?

This cannot be possible as there are no roadworks taking place anywhere nearby and if there were plans indeed for such a traffic dispersal scheme, this complex would already be open next year.

It appears that we have learned nothing from the Zakaria Mat Deros incident. How ironical? Selangor’s eighth Menteri Besar, the late Dato Harun Idris once lived in the bungalow right on top of this hill as the District Officer of Klang but was later found to be technically corrupt and jailed for misappropriation of funds, the amount of which is going to be miniscule in comparison to the losses this country is going to face once this project is ready by this chopped up hill.

Our civil servants possibly know that this project is going to cost the economy that goes through Port Klang billions, not to mention the hardship it is going to cost the people who stay in Klang and commute to KL/Shah Alam daily but they do not have the administrative will nor courage to stand up to their political masters.

But residents of Klang who pass by this project daily are resigned to the fact that no one in the end will be accountable for the ensuing traffic disaster and as always the average man on the street will end up paying the price.

Location Plan

Proposed Complex by the side of the hill fronting KL-Klang Highway
Proposed Complex by the side of the hill fronting KL-Klang Highway

  1. #1 by accountability on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 - 9:57 pm

    the umno cronies from bn is still helming the town, what do you expect?

  2. #2 by teetwoh on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 6:09 am

    I lived in Klang all my life, until 2.5 years ago, when I have had enough and left. When I returned in December 2006, that was exactly how I felt, ie., how on earth is the traffic going to cope with all the mindless “development”? It would be like the proverbial case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. All the “development” and construction only benefit the developers,builders and of course, the local government. The people of Klang bears only the brunt of it all.

  3. #3 by sotong on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 7:29 am

    This is the result of decades reckless planning and spending.

    It is long overdue to get rid of these corrupt, incompetent and self serving politicians before they destroy the country.

  4. #4 by Cinapek on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 8:47 am

    Such mindless approvals for developments are not limited to Klang alone. They happen in other parts of the country as well. A prime example is Taman Perling in JB. After an exhilirating drive on the Second Link, the nearest exit into JB and Pasir Gudang passes through a two lane dual carriage road in Perling. This same road serves practically the entire housing developments of the western part of South Johor namely, more than ten housing estates including the massive Bukit Indah and Nusajaya schemes have to use this same stretch of road to reach JB. In the 1.5km stretch passing through Taman Perling, there are 4 traffic lights making the situation even worse. It is not uncommon to take up to 40mins to move 50m during peak periods, which is nearly always. Cars have to fight for space with 16 wheeler trucks exiting the Second Link heading for Pasir Gudang.

    Now they are hyping the new developments of Nusajaya and Horizon Hills, whose launching was recently presided over by the PM as part of the SJER initiative. These new developments will be completed in about two years, adding to the disastrous traffic congestion further. Sure there is the effort to build the Perling interchange and the proposed coastal highway to ease these jams. But these may take more than two years to complete, with luck maybe five given the track record of the Johor Jaya Interchange. So where does that leave the long suffering residents in this entire western corridor in the meantime? Can’t the authorities use their common sense and see the problem and coordinate the developments to match the infrastructure? Or are the planning approvals decided by vested interest?

    Lest anyone mentions public transport, a four letter word will be its most apt description. This stretch of road is the tourists’ first impression of Malaysia as they come in via the Second Link. Apart from the jam, because of the huge number of cars typically stuck waiting, rubbish are thrown out of cars indiscriminately. The sights that greets the tourist as he sits waiting in the jam are the rubbish on the roadside as well as the clogged drains caused by the rubbish thrown. Welcome VMY2007!!!

    Potential investors to SJER visiting Malaysia in the meanwhile will be greeted with the same jams and rubbish and be put off by it. No Robert Kuok, Andrew Sheng or Musa Hitam can help if the problems on the ground are not resolved and resolved fast.

  5. #5 by hasilox on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 9:24 am

    Was there a proper planning? I seriously doubt. The authority only do the only thing they know, shoddy patchworks.

    Without efficient public transport system, there can never be enough roads in the densely populated cities. So far only empty talks and maybe some missing budgets. Where are the results?

  6. #6 by Winston on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 9:53 am

    There is only one way all these can be resolved.
    That is by booting out the BN government.
    Uncle Lim must go all out to wrest the power from this government.

  7. #7 by sotong on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 10:16 am

    How can anyone take pride of the present development that caused unnecessary hardship and suffering to the ordinary people?

    There is an gross over investment in the country infra structure. The money could be better spent helping the poor in the kampong.

  8. #8 by madmix on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 10:57 am

    There was probably a master plan in the beginning. But the there’s money, money, money, money to be made by the approving authorities and the developers. Win win they say. And the rakyat loses. There is no such thing as win win, someone must lose. Its a total sum game.

  9. #9 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 11:04 am

    Some of you should go to the SRK(C) Damansara next to the Riana Green Condos and near to the Sony Centre to see the “wisdom” of the town planners. All around the primary school are four-lane roads, two in each direction, but somehow the latest phase of the Riana Green Condos was allowed to portrude on to part of the road, thereby causing one section in front of the school to narrow into a single lane in each direction. Who on earth would approve something like this? I think there are reasonable grounds to sue the planning authorities for negligence, and I have been hoping that a citizen living in the vicinity would do this, and bring the whole matter into the open.

  10. #10 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 11:08 am

    The question is, more often than not, ‘who is behind the development?’. PLease check. It’s probably another ZAkaria Mat Deros clone.

    So that explains.

    It’s time for Klang to vote PKR/DAP in the next GE.

  11. #11 by twistedmind on Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 9:38 pm

    People of Klang, you are not alone! Metro Kajang Bhd with the blessing of the then menteri besar and his band of town councilers did the same thing to Kajang town – we’re still paying the price till today.

    Buildings were erected where roads used to run and now traffic have to run circles around town to get to the other side. 50 years of madness, only in Malaysia.

  12. #12 by yapthomas on Friday, 2 March 2007 - 8:50 pm

    OH NO!!.. I’m a KLANG PERSON!!

    Vote for me if I run independant..!!
    And I will do all my best to solve the problem.

    Of course, If I’m in the BN, do vote for me and I will change
    every system.. But I doubt I will, cause all my BN upper links will stop me..

  13. #13 by ktteokt on Friday, 11 May 2007 - 9:44 pm

    Traffic in Kuala Lumpur would turn for the worse if traffic police are not “re-trained” in handling traffic. I fail to see why the government spent so many millions fixing up so called “computerized traffic lights” when traffic police start manning junctions and blowing away whistles, allowing traffic to move when the light is red and stopping it when the light is green.

    If at all the police think this is a better way to handle traffic, then perhaps we should revert to the fifties when traffic police stood on oil drums in the middle of junctions directing traffic. It would definitely save the people a lot of money that way, doing away with traffic lights, computers and electricity costs. Besides, oil drums are cheap and being able to recycle them would help to conserve lots of resources for the nation.

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